To Eat

   These buildings are cheery in their own way, not unlike well-lived in caves. Or low hovels made into commercial premises. Brick walls, concrete floors; wooden tables, low stools. I tell the man meat and I plant myself next to the door so I can see the road. Better maybe to be closer to the cook for his fire is warming, but over there even he coughs on the chili he fries and the greasy smoke collects in your clothes.
  “You’re still here,” he says over his shoulder.
   He can’t see me. I nod anyway. There is cardboard laid out by the entrance. There are four rickety tables. I hunch over a greasy cup of yellowed water.
   The owner has a daughter. Skinny kid. And a wife somewhere. He likes to chat. I listen to him scrape at his wok in jolts of three – scrape, scrape, toss. The meat begins to sizzle. He coughs. Spicy vapours curl through the room, assail us both, and move on.
  “And something with vegetables,” I say back at him. “Green beans,” I say.
  “Don’t have,” he says.
“Don’t have.”
  “Don’t have.”
  “What do you have?”
  “Na,” he says, coming up from behind. He slides the plate of gristle and peppers and his thumb down before me. Spitting distance across the room is side table with bowls, sticks and a cooling tub of rice.
  “Ha ha,” he says, kindly, and pats me on the shoulder. Then he shifts back to packing up what little is still left out.
   The kid pops in through the back door, armful of clothes. “Ha low,” she says. Turns the corner out the front door and is gone.